Long revered by author, artist and general population alike, the perfectly proportioned cone of Mount Fuji is the iconic image of Japan. Just 100 kilometres from Tokyo and Japan’s highest peak it is a sight not to be missed. The district of Hakone, about 1 hour 30 minutes from Fuji's foot, offers both spectacular scenery and ultimate relaxation at one of its many onsen resorts.
At 3,776 metres tall Mount Fuji is a dormant stratovolcano and one of Japan’s three holy mountains. The centre of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, the mountain itself plus 24 other sites, including shrines, hot springs and waterfalls, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013. It is possible to climb Fuji during July and August or head up to the 5th station, about half way up, by road. Of course the very best views of Fuji in all its majesty can be had from the area surroundings its base – including Fuji Five Lakes and Hakone.
The Fuji Five Lakes region spreads out from the foot of Mount Fuji and is named for the five lakes that nestle in the foothills. Each formed by Fuji’s previous eruptions the lakes form the perfect picture-postcard thanks to the fact that they act as natural mirrors for Fuji’s perfect cone. The best known lake of the five is Kawaguchi – here you can take boat trips or head up Mount Tenjo, by cable car or on foot, for spectacular views back over the lake to Fuji. This is also an excellent place to enjoy the colours of autumn.
The resort of Hakone is popular for both its beautiful setting and views of Mount Fuji and its onsens. But aside from admiring the views and relaxing in hot springs the town and the surrounding area has plenty more to offer, from a fascinating thermal geopark of to an eclectic collection of modern art. The town sits in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park close to Lake Ashi, the lake to cruise on for a view of Fuji (weather permitting), with easy access by cable car to the Owakudani geysers (please note this area can be closed if there is heightened volcanic activity). The Hakone Open Air Museum and Pola Museum of Art house sculptures and art by the likes of Renoir, Monet, Picasso and Van Gogh whilst the Hakone Shrine on the lakeshore offers both tranquillity and great views. Of course the only way to wind down after a day of sightseeing here is to bask in one of the many onsens.
Steps from Lake Ashi and excellently located for easy access to the lively Hakone, the Yugiriso offers a typical Japanese ryokan experience. With public indoor and outdoor hot springs, this intimate ryokan is ideal for ultimate relaxation after a day of exploration.
The Gora Tensui in Hakone offers the very best in Japanese hospitality combined with luxurious guestrooms that are a mix of Japanese and modern Western design. The hotel has a wide range of onsen baths both indoor and outdoor with water fed from the hot springs and a restaurant that prides itself on its creative and unique cuisine.
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The world’s largest and most populous continent, Asia is a vibrant and rambunctious fusion of ethnicities, cultures and customs; an incomparably rich and turbulent history showcased by mindboggling feats of architecture and engineering; a geography that encompasses towering peaks, unfathomable gorges and paradisiacal beaches; and a biodiversity that is so abundant that you’ll be reaching for your wildlife guide.